Patience is key when it comes to viewing and getting the best out of any wildlife encounter. Having seen this pride of lion from the lodge since brunch time, we decided to spend the afternoon with them, waiting for them to move and hopefully show us their cubs that were hidden in the thickets.

Arriving at the sighting, the two lionesses were stretched out across the flat granite rocks in typical lion style. The large male, one of two in the pride, was in a similar position, just a little off from the others. After about 20 minutes, we spotted movement in the nearby thickets and could make out the shapes of two small cubs, about 3 and a 1/2 months old.

As the sun dropped, the lions began their routine yawning and stretching. All of a sudden, both lionesses sprang up and trotted directly north up the river bank and honed in on two impala rams that were clashing horns in a serious fight. This clashing of horns signal, tells lions that the male impala are not focused on anything else but fighting. Many impala are killed during this phase of the year when they “rut.”

Fortunately for the impala rams, the nearby females saw the lions approaching and sounded the alarm. A few minutes later the lionesses returned and the lead lioness called out to the cubs and they rushed out to greet her, rubbing heads and calling loudly.

The lioness lead them out into the open for us to see and enjoy. Sprawled out on the rocks, they enjoyed each other, grooming themselves and playing. At this point the second pride male joined and appeared silhouetted against the sky, high up on the ridge. We sat with them until dark and then negotiated our way out of the riverbed, leaving them to their evening activities.

Another special encounter and example of how accepting these animals are, trusting us to be so close to them with their young cubs.